Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wringing the Juice out of Workers

Rochester, New York has been devastated by the Bush Recession even more severely than much of the rest of the nation. As the city’s historically biggest employers, Xerox and Kodak, move jobs off shore, unemployment is high.

There’s a Mott’s apple juice factory near Rochester that has been thriving. Earnings are up in an industry that tends to feel the impact of the recession less than most. So how does Mott’s react to this situation? It demands wage and benefit concessions from its workers – even while the company is garnering record profits!

As a result, over 300 union workers have been on strike for the past three months. As corporations tend to do in this situation, Mott’s has replaced the union workers with “temporary” help who are happy to have any job, albeit below union wages, in this economy.

Situations like this only serve to perpetuate the recession. Higher paying workers tend to have more disposable income to spend in the local community, thus creating even more jobs. The current crop of lower-paid workers will struggle to meet basic needs.

In times of economic distress, unions have always been called upon to make concessions to help keep their employers solvent. And in most cases, they comply – hoping to keep members’ jobs and return to an equitable pay rate once things get better. But the Mott’s situation is the start of a disturbing trend – corporations demanding concessions even when business is booming – permanently depressing wages.

The US Supreme Court has legislated that corporations are persons. And Mott’s is not doing anything illegal. In fact it is doing what its shareholders expect and demand. So if Mott’s is equivalent to a person, it is a person without a soul.

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